Julio, 62, and Florentina live in the village of Santa Cruz, in Belize’s southernmost district of Toledo. The couple is raising three children, all of whom live in and are currently enrolled in school. The family manages a four-acre cacao farm with around 1,200 trees.
A cacao farmer of 27 years now, Julio says he enjoys every part of the process of farming cacao. A more challenging part of cacao for him is the fermentation and drying, especially in the rainy season. Belize has two seasons – rainy and dry – with the rainy season typically going from June to November. The Toledo district receives most rainfall of all of Belize. Moreover, with climate change, the seasonality has become less predictable, with rains occurring in the dry season and vice versa. The family is happy to now be able to sell fresh cacao in place of having to dry it themselves.
Florentina has been an active participant in farm management. She oversees and organizes harvesting with other ladies in her village, hiring three women to help with harvesting every two weeks during the productive season. Cacao trees in Belize produce all year round, with peak seasons from February through May. Besides caring for the children and helping on the farm, Florentina makes local Maya crafts from woven Jippi Jappa palm leaves.
In the future, the family hopes to continue improving their cacao farm by expanding and diversifying into other crops that can be planted alongside the cacao trees. An interplanted farm yields some kind of crop all year round, creating more stable income for the farmers. Ideally, the children will finish school and take over the farm. “If they want, it would nice if they could continue to run the farm business, if not, somebody will take care of it,” Julio told Maya Mountain Cacao laughingly.
The family is requesting this loan to prepare for expanding their farm and to hire help for harvesting. Expanding cacao requires buying and filling bags with topsoil and seeds in order to raise cacao seedlings. Moreover, to prepare land for planting, farmers need to clean the underbrush and mark where the trees will be planted. Seedlings are ready for transplanting into the ground when they have four or more leaves, usually about six months after they are bagged.
About Maya Mountain Cacao
Maya Mountain Cacao (MMC) is a for-profit social enterprise that sources premium cacao beans from smallholder farmers in Belize. Founded in 2010, it generates income for marginalized farmers while promoting sustainable agricultural practices in the southern part of the country.
These cacao farmers use Kiva credit to invest in farm maintenance, improvement and expansion. For example, they might hire workers to help with the harvest or buy inputs such as better tools and seedlings.